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UK Atomic Energy Authority switches to Active Directory

Cliff Saran

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (AEA), which works on decommissioning nuclear reactors, has replaced a 10-year-old Netware and Novell directory with Windows to support business reorganisation.

The organisation ran a competitive tender, assessing Novell's Linux infrastructure against Windows Active Directory, and selected the Microsoft product because it was considered less risky.

In an exclusive video and podcast with Computer Weekly.com, Chris Broad, head of information systems and technology at the Atomic Energy Authority, said, "The initial decision to move to Active Directory was that it was cheaper and it represented a relatively low and acceptable risk option. We could demonstrate to the business this could be done."

The UK Atomic Energy Authority is distributed across 23 locations from the far north coast of Scotland to Dorset and supports 3,500 PCs. The distributed nature of the AEA meant that communications was key and it has made extensive use of IP-based video conferencing and IP telephony to support users. It was an early adopter of NetWare and the Novell directory services for providing user authentication on the network.

In 2006 the Atomic Energy Authority moved from being an independent organisation to working as a commercial entity for the nuclear decommissioning agency, NDA, on redeveloping old nuclear reactor sites.

As a result of this reorganisation, the Atomic Energy Authority had to adapt its IT infrastructure. "We had to logically separate the IT infrastructure to separate each part of the group," said Broad.

The existing infrastructure was also costing too much. "We needed to improve operations, stabilise IT costs and reap the benefits from new and emerging technologies."

Working with Computacenter, the Atomic Energy Authority used Microsoft's infrastructure optimisation model (IOM) to benchmark its existing IT infrastructure against a Microsoft-based network. Computacenter used this assessment to replace the Novell infrastructure with Windows Server 2003.

Chris Broad said the on-going benefits have included ease of integration with other products.

While the new Microsoft infrastructure will support Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, Broad said he had no plans to upgrade. Since the Atomic Energy Authority was very cost conscious, Broad said it would usually only migrate if there was a business driver, such as if support costs started rising or there was an integration problem with other software. "The nuclear industry is risk-adverse and as a matter of policy, we do not automatically upgrade to the latest version," he said.

Watch the video



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